BLM to resume in-person lottery for day-use hiking permits for The Wave

Hiker stands in The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, date unspecified | Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

KANAB — The Bureau of Land Management announced Sunday that the in-person lottery for day-use hiking permits at Coyote Buttes North, commonly known as The Wave, will resume June 15.

The hike to The Wave in Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area, Ariz., date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

According to a press release issued by the BLM, the in-person lotteries were temporarily suspended in March due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but the BLM continued to provide three-month advance permits online.

During this time, the BLM has worked closely with Kane County to develop an approach for restoring the in-person lottery in Kanab, while helping to protect public health and safety.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor told St. George News that the BLM has been working hard to keep public lands open. However, some of the operations had to be adjusted in order to maintain compliance with state and local public health guidelines.

“The in-person lottery they have at The Wave is a pretty rare experience, not only for the hike itself but also how they do the permitting,” she said.

For the avid hikers and outdoor lovers, hiking The Wave is an amazing opportunity, especially when the BLM only allows 20 permits a day. Half of these permits are reserved online and the other 10, previous to the suspension, are acquired on site in the form of a lottery, she said.

The hike to The Wave in Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area, Ariz., date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

“On average over 200,000 people apply per year and only 4% are awarded the permit. And it seems to be, in your area, opportunities are growing, and more people want to spend time outside. I think we’re seeing that too with COVID,” MacGregor said. “So when it comes to this in-person lottery, I think some of the challenges were just how they adjust with an increased number of folks showing up to the lottery and how they conduct the lottery in that space.”

In order to participate in the in-person lottery, people will often stay in the parking lot in a recreational vehicle or stay in a hotel in order to show up for the lottery in hopes to obtain a permit. How many people show up on any given day varies, she said, but they have seen as many as 100 people show up in a day.

As they look ahead to reopening the lottery on June 15, she said they are curious to see how many people will show up, as they have seen visitation shift around based on what’s open.

“So they’re pretty curious to see if more people are going to show up for the lottery in hopes of getting a permit and having an opportunity to go out there, especially during these times,” she said.

In the meantime, they’re focused on staying nimble. One of the advantages of having the in-person lottery is having contact on-site to ensure safety precautions and preparedness, such as bringing adequate water and wearing appropriate attire.

MacGregor said that the BLM and the Department of the Interior understands how local economies are impacted by land management, which includes recreational opportunities.

“It’s important to us to make sure we’re enhancing recreational opportunities for folks to help keep that recreational economy going.”

The hike to The Wave in Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area, Ariz., date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

Paria River District Manager Harry Barber said that he appreciates Kane County’s partnership in coordinating a safe way to restore the in-person lottery for The Wave, which was hosted at the Kanab Visitor Center before COVID-19.

“The BLM is committed to providing the public with outstanding opportunities to recreate safely throughout the pandemic.”

Brian Tritle, acting district manager for the BLM Arizona Strip, expressed his gratitude to the recreating public for their patience and understanding in having to suspend the in-person lottery to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, adding that he expects digital tools to be a way for future situations.

“We expect enhanced online permitting tools will be a valuable option to handle similar situations in the future, including the ever-increasing demand for access to Coyote Buttes North.”

The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness is managed by the BLM Arizona Strip Field Office and includes the Coyote Buttes North. Travelers should be aware that an advance permit for day use is required and no overnight camping is allowed in the Coyote Buttes permit area.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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